This paper covers a reliability analysis as a qualitative method, especially focused on axial piston units. The method is based on Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) and results in risk and reliability assessment at the components level. Especially, the development of the reliability assessment as a methodical tool is the core of the paper. Moreover, the FTA is combined with the industrial standard method known as Design Failure Mode Effects Analysis (DFMEA) which is typically used in the development phase of the design. The evaluation and the usability of the FTA methodology is analyzed in connection with field data. Thus, the deviation of the theoretical valuation from the field data was utilized as a success indicator of the method. The analysis of the fault spreading covers the assessment of component faults and links failure states with unit effects. The analysis of the axial piston unit as a system is made on idealized/theoretical design and functional behavior only. Hence, the failure rating and the effect is subsequently applied to determine the fault risk in form of the Risk Priority Number (RPN). The failure modes and effects are based on engineering experience of past decades, supported by existing DFMEAs of axial piston units. Thus, the assessment of the risk priority number is based on previous data, yielding the given severity, occurrence and detection quantification. This approach opens new opportunities of design assessment and the results show a good agreement to the damage accumulation seen in real field data. Furthermore, the connection between theoretical design assessment and field data do support the failure ranking improvement of the DFMEA.